Last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated every five years, this science-based advice helps Americans make decisions on what to eat and drink in order to promote short and long-term health, reduce the risk of chronic disease and meet nutritional needs.
The guideline, entitled, “Make Every Bite Count”, encourages all Americans to make healthy choices at each age and stage of their lives. One notable addition to this edition is the guidance surrounding when to introduce peanuts and eggs in infants and young children. Much like the 2017 U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease guidance, the latest dietary guidelines suggest giving infants and young children allergenic foods early and often. Early introduction of peanuts and eggs, between 4 and 6 months of age, helps reduce the risk of developing food allergies later. It further emphasizes that there is no evidence that delaying the introduction of these foods will help prevent food allergies. The guidelines note that infants and young children should be given peanuts, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy in an age and developmentally-appropriate way alongside complementary food.
The inclusion of guidance around food allergy prevention represents tremendous progress. The prevalence of food allergies has risen over the last several decades. Couple that with the fact that there is no cure as well as limited treatment options for those with food allergies, the need for strategies for prevention becomes critical. The inclusion of food allergy prevention guidelines will help pediatricians and parents work together to keep young children healthy as they develop and grow.
“Make Every Bite Count” doesn’t only focus on infant feeding guidelines. It also emphasizes:
- a reduction in added sugar consumption across all ages, avoiding added sugars altogether for infants ages 0-2 and then limiting it to 10% of total calories for ages 2 and older;
- limiting saturated fat to 10% of total calories for ages 2 and older;
- limiting sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day (or less if under age 14);
- limiting daily alcohol consumption for adults to 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women.